Jonathan Cooper won’t play this season. We’ve known that since August. And it has been easy to make the leap — given the injury — that the Cardinals will essentially have two first-round draft picks in 2014, with whomever they choose with their regular first-rounder and the return to the field of Cooper. There is no question that, for a guard, Cooper will have high expectations going into next year.
He knows this, sitting his his locker these days, eating lunch with teammates and finally free — mostly — of the boot he had been wearing since breaking his leg in the preseason.
“Yeah, there are (expectations),” Cooper said, “but, I mean, there always was. All I can do is go out and play to the best of my ability.”
It’s hard not to play a little what-if with Cooper. Had he stayed healthy, he would be the left guard. Daryn Colledge would have stayed on the right side and Paul Fanaika would be on the bench (and realistically, it would have been interesting to see what the roster makeup would have looked like too, because an available Cooper would have meant someone else would have to go.) The Cardinals think their offensive line would have been better, and that’s hard to argue. Then again, Cooper does not play left tackle, and his play would probably not have changed the Levi Brown/Bradley Sowell storyline much.
But he is a key piece. And as the Cardinals move forward to 2014, he is a (delayed) step toward reshaping the line, a line that needs to get better. As the Cardinals continue to figure out what lies in the future of the quarterback position, another possible year of Carson Palmer would be buoyed by better protection up front.
In the meantime, Cooper rehabs. He has been in the weight room a few weeks now, and while he is thrilled to be out of the boot he was forced to wear for so long (pictured below), it hasn’t completely disappeared from use. “Under certain circumstances I still wear it just to be safe,” Cooper said.
He’s also come to grips with watching his team from the sideline, and waiting to see just what kind of impact he can make on this offensive line.
“It was a definitely a lot harder early on when the injury was fresher,” Cooper said. “Now, I understand. I just have to prepare for next year and keep moving forward.”
Tags: Jonathan Cooper, offensive line
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